PUBLISHING giant Penguin will pull Belle Gibson's debut cook book after the author failed to defend accusations of falsely claiming to have cancer and explain why she withheld charitable donations.
But Penguin refuses to say when it first became concerned about the accuracy of the "inspirational" story used to promote the Melbourne businesswoman's book and app.
Fairfax Media has been told that Ms Gibson was called into Penguin's offices to go over her cancer story, detailed in the extensive preface to The Whole Pantry, just weeks before its release last October.
Sources said Ms Gibson described the meeting - in which she was put in front of a video camera and repeatedly asked about her background and medical condition - as an "interrogation".
The publisher has previously admitted never fact checking Ms Gibson's story, which claims healthy living and natural therapies helped her treat multiple terminal cancers.
Ms Gibson has so far offered no evidence to support her claims of surviving cancers after rejecting conventional treatment. Former friends and leading medical experts have cast strong doubt over her story and purported diagnoses.
After further questions from Fairfax Media on Monday, Penguin released a statement saying it had not received a "sufficient explanation" from Ms Gibson about her health claims and potentially illegal fundraising activities.
Penguin said the book would no longer be supplied and sold in Australia.
"Despite our best endeavours, Penguin Books has not received sufficient explanation from Ms Gibson, author of The Whole Pantry recipe book, in response to recent allegations," a spokeswoman said.
"As such, we have been left with no other option but to stop supplying the book in Australia. We remain hopeful that we will receive the formal assurances we have requested in the coming days."
It comes as next month's overseas release of The Whole Pantry also is in doubt, with major US publisher Simon & Schuster confirming it will investigate Ms Gibson's biography and charitable donations.
Simon & Schuster imprint Atria Books said it was "seeking clarification" from Ms Gibson before deciding whether next month's launch of The Whole Pantry in US bookstores would go ahead.
"In light of recent allegations we are seeking clarification from Belle Gibson and her representatives regarding details of her biography and charitable endeavours," Atria publicity director Paul Olsewski said.
"Any and all decisions regarding publication of The Whole Pantry will be made when we have had the opportunity to evaluate all the available information."
Global tech company Apple, which heavily promoted Ms Gibson's app as one of the first to be made available on the Apple Watch device, has remained silent for almost a week despite mounting accusations and repeated requests for comment. Apple refuses to say whether it stands by Ms Gibson.
- The Age
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